Commissioners To Weigh Ag District Special Events

SNOW HILL – Following introduction last week, the Worcester County Commissioners are set to consider two text amendments in the new year that would allow for special events in the county’s agricultural districts.

On Tuesday, the commissioners introduced two bills that related to commercial non-agricultural functions in the county’s A-1 and A-2 districts. One would allow for special events at wineries while another would permit events at farms and in agricultural buildings.

“This is for introduction only today,” said Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting.

According to Tudor, the text amendment submitted by Barry Mariner would allow wineries to host certain non-agricultural functions such as weddings, family reunions, birthday parties and the like. Mariner and his family are in the process of establishing Windmill Creek Winery on Old Worcester Highway. The facility will feature a vineyard and the family would like to have a tasting room and special event venue.

“Currently the only avenue to permit such uses in these districts is by a special exception for a transient use which limits the approval to one year with a single one-year extension,” Tudor wrote in a memo to the commissioners.

Commissioner Jim Bunting was quick to express concern with the amendment. He asked how sewage disposal for special events would be handled. County staff said the property owner would have to bring in temporary toilets.

Bunting went on to ask how things like stormwater and parking would be addressed. Tudor assured him that a winery hosting a special event would still be subject to all of the county’s normal restrictions. He said he’d discussed the issue with the Mariners.

“We’ve been through all this,” Tudor said. “I hope they understand.”

Bunting said he was concerned that the text amendment would encourage commercial events in agricultural districts. Weddings, he pointed out, weren’t necessarily compatible with farming activities that could be taking place on the surrounding agriculturally zoned properties.

“If this was successful, they could be a year-round business that could be there all the time,” he said.

The second text amendment introduced, submitted by attorney Mark Cropper, would permit special events such as weddings and parties to be held at farms and in barns as a special exception.

“Discussions concerning such activities have been going on at the staff level for some time as interest in these types of activities has been increasing of late,” Tudor wrote in his report to the commissioners.

Bunting expressed concerns similar to those he mentioned with the earlier amendment.

“To me this would be even more of an infringement on the neighbors,” he said.

Nevertheless Commissioner Bud Church agreed to put his name on the amendments so both could be formally introduced. Public hearings are scheduled for Feb. 21.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.